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First meeting All-female group to discuss plans to provide maternity leave to councillors, described as a 'political priority'

There are currently no contingency plans in place for councillors, ministers, senators or TDs to take leave if they become pregnant

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The issue was highlighted after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced she is pregnant

The issue was highlighted after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced she is pregnant

The issue was highlighted after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced she is pregnant

The first meeting of an all-female working group established to examine proposals for maternity leave for county and city councillors will take place on Monday.

A group of six female councillors from each of the five main Government parties plus an independent candidate will meet with the Minister of State Peter Burke who will host the meeting.

There are currently no contingency plans in place for councillors, ministers, senators or TDs to take maternity leave if they become pregnant.

The issue was highlighted after Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced she is pregnant and said that the lack of provision for politicians to take maternity leave is “not a very encouraging signal” for women who want to get into politics.

The Government have arranged for Minister McEntee to take a six-month maternity leave in an ad hoc agreement.

The problem for female councillors was also brought to light by Green Party councillor Clare O’Byrne, who resigned due to the lack of maternity leave which she said was a “huge barrier” for female politicians.

Minister Burke said he plans for measures to be in place as soon as possible.

In a statement, he said: “To say that maternity leave for female politicians is overdue is an understatement, and establishing a maternity-leave system for female councillors is a political priority of mine. While attention has been drawn to this subject recently by my colleague Minister Helen McEntee, it has been an ongoing issue not just in the Dáil but in our Local Authorities.

“Many candidates start their political careers in our council chambers. If we want to increase female participation and retain the talent we have in local government, we must take steps now to address one of the main barriers to female representation; lack of maternity leave and policies which do not favour family life.”

Minister Burke continued: “While there are legal obstacles to consider as well as the lack of employment rights available to office holders such as councillors, I am confident that this group can come up with workable proposals to present to me as Minister.

“For too long, women have been under-represented in politics and right now, we are failing dismally at achieving equality of representation. While the reasons for this are complex, I am confident that introducing maternity leave will provide support for female candidates and politicians and enable increased participation in the years to come.”

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